The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Trevor Williams will make the 53-man roster and see playing time on defense.
Explanation: The Steelers enter the 2021 offseason really with just two cornerbacks who have meaningful playing experience in their defense in Joe Haden and Cameron Sutton, with Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton both now gone. Justin Layne and James Pierre are young and have a handful of snaps under their belts. Trevor Williams may be a bit of a fringe player, but has a lot of prior playing experience, both outside and inside.
There just aren’t a lot of other options. Trevor Williams is a player who has been on the field. This is no Josh Victorian situation. The biggest reason that he has struggled to stay put lately has been that he has dealt with injuries. But in reality, he can play.
Behind of course Haden, the second-most experienced cornerback on the team is actually Williams. Sutton has gotten a handful of starts lately, but Williams has been a full-time starter before. At the very least, he can work his way up to the number four cornerback spot and get on the field in select situations.
Right now, we can’t even count on Williams making the 53-man roster. After all, he spent most of last season on teams’ practice squads, so we shouldn’t just assume that he is going to make the team in the first place, and his injury history doesn’t help him on that front.
Beyond that, the Steelers are not done addressing the cornerback position. They may even use a high draft pick on it, and/or sign a modestly-priced veteran for depth after the draft, which would run the risk of pushing him right back to the practice squad.
Both Layne and Pierre have the potential to develop into legitimate defensive contributors if only granted the opportunity, and some semblance of a proper offseason, which they didn’t have last year. At least work in preseason games will paint a clearer picture of who they are. There are plenty of veterans out there like Williams who have already exhausted their ceiling.